It’s the oldest complaint of conservatives about Manhattan-Beltway media elites, but has new legs this week. I discussed it with Face the Nation’s John Dickerson Friday:
HH: Joined now by CBS News’ John Dickerson, host of Face the Nation. Good morning, John, and a good Friday to you. August is usually the month where nothing happens except in the last 15 years that I’ve been doing this radio show, everything happens in August. Yesterday, U.S. conceded yesterday $400 million dollar payment was delayed as “leverage”. We’re calling it a ransom. Russia is building up its army near the Ukraine border in Crimea. This terrible picture of Omran Daqneesh in Syria is breaking hearts. A rabbi in Strasbourg, France, stabbed by a man shouting Allah Akbar this morning, coffins floating in Baton Rouge, what in the world are you going to cover on Sunday, and with who?
JD: Well, I’ll talk to Jeff Sessions about some of those issues, and what the Donald Trump worldview, where he fits into all this. The Ukraine picture obviously is quite interesting on that front. Donald Trump obviously taking a new tone last night in his speech, you know, he’s facing the commander-in-chief test. And so is that what the new tone is a part of in terms of making people feel comfortable about him in the Oval Office? We’re also going to talk to other Washington Post reporters who have written that new book about Trump, Kranish and Fisher, about the extensive interviews with Donald Trump, extensive look at his life, what’s the more complete picture of Donald Trump than the one we see that gets chopped up and shredded in the campaign cycle. And then we’ll have some new poll numbers from those battleground states, get a sense of where voters are.
HH: Now I believe the polls are going to begin to close, and that the story of September is going to be Trump comeback, because it’s just the way American elections make. But if I can, I want you to indulge me in an old saw. Conservatives have complained forever about double standards. And I have in front of me two stories. One of them is the Gilbert Chagoury story. Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich on the last day of his presidency. Marc Rich was business partners with Gilbert Chagoury. Gilbert Chagoury donates to the Clinton Foundation. We knew that some time ago. But last week, we find out that he asked for and received help from the Clinton Foundation in touching Hillary Clinton’s State Department for favors. There’s a denial by the then-Lebanese ambassador that he ever heard from Chagoury, but Huma Abedin said oh, we’ll get on it. How is that not dominating the news cycle? That’s a pay for play going back 16 years, John Dickerson, to the original sin of why did they pardon Marc Rich?
JD: Yeah, well, I think that’s why you see the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton saying that, I mean, I think it’s part of why Bill Clinton is saying that the Clinton Foundation will, that he’ll separate himself from it, and they won’t take any money if Hillary Clinton is elected president. And I think the pressure of those stories is what caused that response. I think that’s, you know, I mean, it’s been covered. I think, and is going to continue to be covered. I think the, I guess the other story that you would pair that with is the, is Paul Manifort’s connection to the, to Ukraine and Russia, which is getting, which is getting more coverage than the Clinton one. So you know, I think it’s a fair comparison to whether which one is more important in terms of people’s, making people’s decisions about who they want to elect president.
HH: Yeah, Paul Manifort is a real story, and there is a real amount of reporting to be done there. I would guess it’s a ten to one column inch differential between Chagoury and Manifort. And the Chagoury story is the principal as opposed to the staffer who arrives on the scene six months ago.
HH: So I am just flabbergasted that the Rich to Chagoury to Band to Huma Abedin to Hillary, Tinkers to Evers to Chance connection has not dominated.
HH: But let me ask you about the second one. I’m looking at the story that is in this morning’s, I think it’s the Express, maybe it’s the Telegraph, of coffins floating down Baton Rouge streets. And the flooding there is so awful, they say it’s, we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s worse than Hurricane Katrina. Anna Johnson of Denham Springs near the state capital is quoted as saying that in the Express. Why is the President getting a pass on not going to Louisiana, and George Bush was, you remember this, John, roasted for not doing so?
JD: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it, it’s, you know, I don’t know whether the, what the, why the coverage is different. I don’t know whether the, you know, the response, the federal response is, could have done anything here, whether one is being considered more of a disaster that’s just a disaster the way you would have floods and wildfires, and you know, there’s only so much a federal response can do. I don’t know. It obviously also has to do with the kind of, you know how this goes, where a president is in their presidency. And you know, George Bush at the time was on, you know, on his heels in terms of the aftermath of the Iraq War, and so that had a narrative in place that, that those facts fell into. But I don’t know that there’s, I don’t know that there’s a substantive argument for why one’s getting covered more than another.
HH: I have one theory and it’s tentative. I was at the movies last night, and I saw the preview of the movie, the First Date, which looks like a wonderful movie about President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s first date 25 years ago in Chicago. He’s a folk hero, and therefore, he’s a little bit above what we normally do to presidents. What do you think?
JD: Well, he’s not a folk hero for a lot of people. I mean, you know, for a lot of people, he’s changed the culture and set the country in the totally wrong direction. So I mean, he might be a folk hero for the people who make, you know, those kind of movies. I think…
HH: And the news, the people who make the news, he’s a folk hero. I should have said that, the media, the mainstream Beltway-Manhattan media elite.
JD: I don’t know. I mean, I think, I think, I don’t know, folk hero is an interesting concept. I think as the first African-American president, I think that adds to what I’m interpreting you to mean by folk hero in terms of his story is, has more to it than just simply his…
HH: His narrative, his politics…
JD: Yes. Yeah.
HH: …his struggle, it’s all resonating.
JD: I don’t have, yeah, yeah, I don’t know, the rise of the first African-American president has a narrative arc to it that I, that is different. I think you’re, I think that makes, I think that’s, that’s probably right.
HH: We’ll follow more…
JD: And that’s, certainly to people who make movies, find him to be more than a folk hero. They find him to be, you know, a great, the greatest president perhaps of their lifetime.
HH: Yeah, yeah, we’ll follow this story for years to come. John Dickerson, have a great Face the Nation on Sunday. I appreciate you dropping by.
End of interview.